That the Pastor form of church government is unscriptural and that the vast majority of those with the “pastor” title do not have the “pastor” calling of Ephesians 4:11. Nor are they necessarily the elders described in the New Testament. Now, before you get so peeved you quit reading, I want you to know that I know these are hard words. No matter how I try to say it, the words will be offensive to some who work in or attend a pastor-driven church. But they are the truth. If you get this message, you can become who Jesus called you to be in His church and His Kingdom.
Most pastors that I talk to don’t believe they need to be set free from the “pastor” form of church government. In fact, they like it. It’s what they know. It’s tradition that mostly works for them. In Matthew 15 and Mark 7, Jesus says to the pharisees, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you……. you would rather keep the traditions of men than honor the commandments of God.” Now I’m not saying that most “pastors” are the bad pharisees of Scripture, but they are following in the traditions of men and not walking out the Scriptural principles of Jesus form of government. What I’m also saying is that most “pastors” are not Ephesian 4:11 “pastors” but perhaps have another 4:11 calling. Until they find it or admit it, they can’t be fully effective in the work of the five main ministries.
In this lesson, I’m going to separate fact from fiction, tradition from commandment and get to what the Lord is doing in these “last days” regarding the government of His church. It is extremely important to understand that Jesus’ church is not a gentile church, nor a Jewish church or non-messianic synagogue, but a Messianic church comprising both Jew and Gentile believers. Today, Jesus is restoring His church to its original design and purpose.
Before I discuss the Blueprint that describes His government, let’s discuss the context of the “pastor” in Ephesians 4:11 and how Christianity formed a false governmental structure.
This is not an attack on the men and women who labor in the vineyard. Most are underpaid and overworked, but it is an attack on the unscriptural form of church government that is incapable of producing the results that the Lord wants and expects. So, what are some of these results that Jesus’ government produces that the “pastor” or “pope” form cannot:
- It makes every believer a disciple that can preach the message of the Kingdom and disciple new believers.
- It helps keep doctrinal error out of the church.
- It equips the believer for the work of the ministry Jesus called them to.
- It produces mature believers that are in unity with other believers.
- It sees that no one in the local church has lack or need.
I’m sure many pastors believe they are accomplishing the above, but sadly, they are not. How do I know, because the members of their congregation are not healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead. Which should be the basic skill sets represented in each local congregation? Plus, there is still too much lack and need in the churches and for most attendees of pastor-driven churches, church is a spectator sport, no matter what programs they list in the church bulletin.
Misunderstandings and misconceptions believed by the church:
- That the “pastor” of Ephesians 4:11 is a senior position in the local church. In fact, many even have the title “senior pastor”.
- That the “pastor” of Ephesians 4:11 is a teaching position in the local church. Many commentators, such as John MacArthur, believe that the pastor and teacher of Ephesians 4:11 is a combined position. 1 Corinthians 12:28 disproves this, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,…..” Neither “pastor” or “evangelist” is listed in 1 Corinthians chapter 12.
- That the “pastor” of Ephesians 4:11 is automatically an elder in the local church.
- That the five main ministries of Ephesians 4:11 are the government of the church.
- That the greek word poimēn in Ephesians 4:11 should be translated “pastor”.
- That there is one man in charge of the local church with elders to help and support him.
- That the pastor/teacher can equip the saints for the work of the ministry and bring them into maturity and unity. And for those in the current apostolic movement, I believe it is important to note the following misconceptions because they tie into the Blueprint for Jesus’ government:
- That apostles are over local churches, especially specific churches, and that the government of the local church is in the hands of the apostles and the five main ministries.
- That women can be apostles and/or elders.
- That this current movement by the Holy Spirit is about the apostles.
• The word “apostle(s)” occurs 85 times in the New Testament.
• The word “prophet(s)” occurs over 150 times in the New Testament, about 20 of those occurrences referring distinctly to prophets in the Church Age.
• The word “teacher(s)” occurs 125 times in the New Testament.
• The word “evangelist(s)” occurs only 3 times in the New Testament.
• The word “pastor(s)” or shepherd occurs precisely one (1) time in the entire New Testament! One time! (Ephesians 4:11) Yet man has built an entire governmental structure on a mistranslation of the Greek word poimēn. The word poimēn appears just 18 times in the New Testament, 3 times outside the Gospels, in Ephesians 4:11, Hebrews 13:20 and 1 Peter 2:25, and only once in relationship to the five main ministry calling of Ephesians 4:11. In Hebrews and 1 Peter poimēn refers to the Great Shepherd, Jesus.
So let’s consider and analyze the above referenced facts. The Bible speaks of New Testament apostles, prophets, and teachers a combined total of 230 times, while pastors and evangelists are mentioned a combined total of four times! Nowhere in the New Testament is a pastor or evangelist listed as an elder. Philip the evangelist is also a deacon, but every place one of the five main ministry callings of Ephesians 4:11 is listed as an elder, it is either an apostle, prophet or teacher. This does not prevent a pastor or evangelist from being an elder. In fact, the requirements for being an elder listed in Titus and 1 Timothy do not mention a five main ministry calling as a requirement. When we look at the function of a New Testament pastor, we’ll find it better suited for being a deacon rather than an elder.
Pastors or Shepherds:
The Shepherd or Pastor ministry in Ephesians 4:11 needs to be separated from the overseer role of the elders of the New Testament church. This point is one that is misunderstood by the vast majority of present day church leadership. Part of the reason for this misunderstanding is believing that “pastor” is a governmental office and that the function of overseer or shepherding done by an elder is an Ephesian 4:11 function. Later, I will deal with elders, bishops, overseers, and deacons.
Again, the Greek word translated pastor by the King James translators in Ephesians 4:11 is poimēn and is the only place they translated the word pastor. Everywhere else we translate it shepherd.
The primary function of the Ephesian 4:11 shepherd or pastor are:
- A life laid down for the sheep in his or her care — The shepherd or shepherdess cannot live for themselves.
- Must know and be-known by the sheep. This eliminates the ability to “pastor” a large church or congregation. The shepherd knows his sheep in a close personal relationship. In my experience, shepherds and shepherdess work best in the home church environment.
- Speak and lead the sheep. In the Middle East, shepherds do not drive their sheep, they lead from the front speaking to the sheep who know their voice. The shepherd is always accessible.
- Responsible to feed the sheep. That is to help care for their daily needs. Providing for the needs of the individual sheep is more a function of the deacon than the elder, whose primary function is to the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4) and for some elders, to teaching (1 Timothy 5:17).
The Blueprint for the Church
The Blueprint is really simple once you have the keys to read it. One of the primary keys is the principle that all leadership, both locally and trans-locally, is based on a plurality of leaders. The model for this is the Godhead itself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all equal to one another, yet they consult one another and prefer one another. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and my Father are one”; and in Philippians 2:6, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage..”
In this plurality model, there can be a first amongst equals. The Latin Primus inter pares or Greek Πρῶτος μεταξὺ ἴσων (protos metaxy ison) means: the first among equals or first among peers, and is a phrase describing the most senior person of a group sharing the same rank or office. In the Godhead that would be the Father, in Acts 15, we see that would be James speaking for the apostles/elders in Jerusalem. It would be the apostle Paul in his apostolic company, even though Paul refers to the other apostles as his coworkers in the Gospel.
The purpose for plurality and equality is so one man does not rule or dictate over others, which can lead to abuse or doctrinal error. A plurality of leadership is Jesus’ way of safeguarding His flock, His checks and balance system. The other checks and balance is the relationship between local elders and apostles, but that’s for another lesson. Leadership must always come into agreement and be able to say, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…..” (Acts 15”28).
Today, many churches have rule by one, with elders or a board serving in a secondary role. This isn’t the only system of church government, but here we are talking about the pastor model of church government.
Another key is understanding Jesus as both King and Priest. Melchizedek’s kingship and priesthood, as spelled out in Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7:1-2, helps us understand that kingship represents His government and Priesthood, His ministry. Jesus’ government in the church age is the function of the apostles and elders and His ministry starts with the five ministries of Ephesians 4:11. Understanding this Divine Order allows the body of Christ to function correctly and achieve its mission. It is essential that all apostles and elders be able to teach this truth.
The third key, and not the least, is that the local church is determined by a geographic location. The authority of the local church is just that, local. I’ll deal with the universal, or catholic (not to be confused with the Roman Catholic religion) church in another post.
The Greek word for church is ἐκκλησία (ekklesia) which is better translated congregation or assembly. In the King James it is used to describe a church 115 times, broken down as a city church 35 times, a house church 4 times, as churches in a province 36 times, a local church 16 times, the universal church 20 times, an assembly of the city (Ephesus) 3 times, and the Old Testament church in the wilderness 1 time.
The concept is that the local church fits into the geographic boundaries established by God through man. So it is the church at Ephesus, or the church at Jerusalem, or the church in San Antonio or Columbus. And the apostles are to appoint elders over these local churches as defined by a geographic area. But what we have now is that man in his infinite wisdom has established many autonomous churches in any geographic area, each ruled by their own self-appointed elders and leaders, producing disunity and a lack of maturity and a total lack of power.
Satan understands the rules of engagement and has set his principalities and powers over geographic regions and cities. He is winning because the only way the church can have enough firepower to defeat the devil is by a unified effort in any geographic location. I don’t want to take the time now to go into a detailed description of how this spiritual battle is to be fought, but we cannot achieve “thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, until we fully understand the rules of engagement.
Thanks for reading.